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Living with Covid update
The French Government has announced that everyone needs to get a booster shot by Jan 15, otherwise their pass sanitaire will be deactivated (Google translate from the French Government website with a little help from me):
People aged 18 to 64 who had their last dose of vaccine before June 17 must have their booster by January 15 so that their pass is not deactivated…
You may also remember that before we had our pass sanitaire, we would have rapid antigen tests so we could get into restaurants and the like, and the deal was that each test was valid for 72-hours. They have now changed the validity period to 24-hours.
Since November 29, 2021, only PCR and antigen tests dating back less than 24 hours will be constitutive proof of the “sanitary pass”.
Given that the going rate for a test is about 25Euro a pop, it is another major incentive for people here (locals and tourists alike) to have a valid pass sanitaire, that is, to be vaccinated.
All of this comes on the back of advice from France's health regulator, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS). They not only back the booster shot but have said that the period between full vaccination and booster shots should be shortened to five months instead of six months.
We would’ve got the booster anyway (not being insane and everything) and are booked in for December 14. All easy enough to organise online.
The booster shot is free for French citizens and those, like Noah, who have a carte vitale (basically, a local Medicare card), but I think we will have to pay, or maybe our insurance will cover it. Another one of those things that has been difficult to check conclusively and that we will work out when we show up.
We were also told the booster would be Pfizer, but we have since received a text message saying it will be Moderna. A friend here said we may still be able to choose, so that’s another thing we will find out when we get there.
French Health Minister, Olivier Véran, has said that France will be sticking with these sorts of measures, that is, vaccinations and rules around masks and passes, rather than reimpose lockdowns.
The vaccination rate here sits at 88.3% of people 12 years and older. So pretty good. As in Australia, it puts in perspective the noisy minority who are objecting. Speaking of which, there was another protest at the end of our street on Saturday, but my sense is, things are quieting down. Could just be that it’s winter, and the city is quieter in general.
With Omicron on the loose, though, various European governments are looking at other measures. Most notable to me has been the decision by the Austrian Government to impose a full lockdown:
Faced with surging daily coronavirus infections, the conservative-led government introduced the lockdown on Monday of last week, the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a lockdown this autumn.
Roughly 67% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe. Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament.
New daily infections have fallen below 9,000 from a peak above 15,000 the week before the lockdown began. Tuesday's figure of 8,186 is still only slightly below the previous peak of 9,586 set in November of last year, when vaccines were not available and a national lockdown was imposed.
We have also been keeping an eye on Britain, because we have to go there at the end of January for Tanya’s work. The Brits have just imposed the requirement that masks be worn indoors and on public transport (as is routine here in France) and that new entrants to the country (us in January) need to have had a Covid-19 test in the 48-hours prior to arrival, whether you are vaccinated or not.
Speaking of England, when we left Australia, we left out apartment in the hands of friend Richard Pyros. Richard has been in Australia as
producer director of Musica Viva’s adaptation of Paul Kildea’s book, Chopin’s Piano (make sure you book to watch it online!), so he has had a good dose of Melbourne during, and post, lockdown.
The other day, he returned to London, and I asked him how things were there. He has given me permission to publish his response:
The covid situation in England is laughable - no-one is taking it seriously and it seems quite blasé and a bit dangerous. I'm still wearing my mask everywhere, but most people aren't. I suppose it's only a matter of time before getting it!
We’ve talked here before about what “living with Covid” actually means, and I think it means all this, all the things that are happening now in various countries around the world, driven more by politics than anything else. I suspect it is part of (and catylyst for ) major realignments in our societies more generally—I mean, obviously—accentuating other changes happening with work, technology and social values. You can’t separate any of it, and the truly horrid thing is not the change itself but the fact that our political class (politicians, media, and business) are in total self-serving denial, missing opportunities left, right and centre. Mainly centre. Spare me from well-meaning centrists.
I just read Thomas Mann’s book Death in Venice, and the main story aside, it is interesting to read his account of the plague that becomes the centre of his story (the plague he describes is based on a 1911 outbreak of cholera in the city).
He writes at one stage:
At the beginning of June the quarantine wards of the Ospedale Civico had quietly filled; there was not much room left in the two orphan asylums, and a frightfully active commerce was kept up between the wharf of the Fondamente Nuove and San Michele, the burial island. But there was the fear of a general drop in prosperity. The recently opened art exhibit in the public gardens was to be considered, along with the heavy losses which, in case of panic or damaging rumors, would threaten business, the hotels, the entire elaborate tourist trade—and as these considerations evidently carried more weight than love of truth or respect for international agreements, the city authorities upheld obstinately their policy of silence, and denial.
The chief health officer had resigned from his post in indignation, and had been promptly replaced by a more tractable personality.
Plus ça change…
Here in Nice, as I say, things have quietened down a lot, with the tourist trade all but cleared out for the winter. Scenes like this are far more common than they were when we arrived.
We went to St Paul de Vence again yesterday, and it is the same up there, the once-busy streets all but empty, most shops and restaurants closed for the season, or operating on much shorter hours.
Still, it remains one of the most beautiful towns in the region. We walked up to the Fondation Maeght Museum, and on the way down, around sunset, this was the old town, sitting on its hill.
On the way up the hill, we found this abandoned chapel. I have no idea what it is called, its provenance, nor its fate. The crane to the right may give a clue. And the smashed stained-glass windows.
We peeked through the bars and chicken wire that were blocking the entrance, and I snapped this.
The things you are lucky enough to stumble upon….
Stay safe everyone.